We watched a swans nest for a number of weeks in the hope that we would see some cygnets, young swans, fledge the nest. One day the swans were there, the next they were gone - had the eggs hatched, or had they been raided? A trawl of the nearby Beck reviewed nothing, so we expected the worst. Two weeks later, look what appeared, two very proud swans with four cygnets! The cygnets will be withe the parents for the next six months and I am sure we will see more of them.
House Martins arrive here in April and start building their nests in May. Both the male and female are involved in house building and they gather up beak fulls of mud, which is mixed with plant material and use to build their nests. Traditionally house martins would build their nests on cliffs, but have adapted themselves to building on convenient sites offered by man. Most noticeably over our back door!
This is a very hansom cock french partridge, who has taken to appearing every morning when I am feeding some of our young bulls. His wife is never far behind and they tuck into some of the beef nuts dropped by the bulls. This behavior is quite extra ordinary as they are totally wild birds, but clearly enjoy the company! Will they be brave enough to feed from my hand? The cock ( male ), is larger than the hen ( female ), but they have the same markings.
May is when we would expect to get our first sighting of roe deer fawns, often it is when they have been left alone in a field by the mother during the day. The mother only returns to them in the early evening / night, so as not to draw attention to them - you never know what predator might be watching. For what ever reason, this mother was not concerned about moving her twins across an open pea field in the middle of the day. It was a very hot day and it is possible she was trying to get them to water. As the pictures show, she was quite nervous and then suddenly a buck joins them. No way of telling if the buck was the father.
This is a wetland area we have on the lower reaches of the beck. Last year it was grazed out by some of our Highland cattle for the first time, possibly the first time it has ever been grazed out by cattle. The area was heavily overgrown, mostly with reeds, which was restricting the amount of light able to reach soil level. We are hoping that by exposing the previously covered soil we will encourage wildflowers to return to the area. Where we have done this on other stretches of the river it has been very successful, with recognised flower species going from 17 to 67 in five years. Some years ago we also removed a large number of very mature poplar trees from the area - part of a 5 000 tonne removal. The tree removal has had a huge impact on the length of time these areas are wet for, beneficial to water levels and the associated wildlife.
Mink are not a native species. They were introduced to the UK where they were farmed for their pelts - skins, which were used to make fur coats. Something that would never happen today. Unfortunately some of the mink escaped from farms, where they were kept in captivity, and can now be found on rivers and streams across the UK. They are a semi aquatic carnivorous mammal and are very damaging to British wildlife and can empty a river of fish in no time at all. To control their numbers mink traps are used and the standard tool is a Mink raft as shown here.
We may have had one of the wetest May's on record, but it has done nothing to our river levels! Our water table continues to fall, this last month by 0.6 metres, and we have yet to reach the height of the summer abstraction levels - doesn't bode well for river flows later in the summer. This weir is used by the Environment agency to monitor water levels in the area and the information is use to determine if water restrictions are required. Low water flows are not good for chalk streams and sadly in other parts of the country they have disappeared altogether.
Dryad’s mushroom is one of several bracket mushrooms found in England and can be found growing on fallen logs and tree stumps. It can also be found growing parasitically on hardwood trees such as maple, elm and other deciduous trees. It is a white rot fungus that causes decay of the heartwood of the tree. They can usually be seen between April and May, but sometime later in the year.